Divorce Documents and Filing Procedure
Summary in Divorce

Like so much in life, divorce generates paperwork. At a minimum, however, the person filing (who is either called the petitioner or the plaintiff) needs to prepare the following documents as part of a divorce: the petition or complaint, which starts the action moving; a summons, which must be served with the petition; and proof of service, which shows the date the spouse (who is either called the respondent or the defendant) received the petition and the summons.

The person seeking the divorce files the petition with the clerk of the courts and pays the appropriate filing fees.

Petitions vary from court to court and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Some states have different forms for marriages with or without children and for contested or uncontested divorces, or with or without fault. As a rule, however, the petition requires the following information: the names of the spouses, the date and place of marriage, the date of separation, the names, ages and birth dates of any children, and the basis for divorce.

The summons informs the other party that he or she has been sued for divorce. It may carry language prohibiting distributing marital assets, an injunction against the removal of children from the state and prohibition from disturbing the status quo.

Proof of service is a standard form that the responding party must sign. It becomes part of the record.

Later the couple negotiate a property settlement agreement, which spells out the terms and conditions of their divorce and which both parties sign. Eventually, when the divorce works its way through the court, a judge signs a divorce decree or judgment that proclaims the marriage dissolved.

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